Accurately bench-testing Crysis Warhead is no easy task. We quickly found out that each level is significantly different from the next in terms of performance. Our results were recorded in the first level, called Call me Ishmael. This is primarily a jungle level and one of the more demanding levels in the game. The next level is called Shore Leave, and here we experienced a similar level of performance.
The third level Adapt our Perish saw the average frame rates drop by 3-4 fps. While this may not sound like much, in a game where the frame rates are already very low this made for a noticeable difference. A similar dip in frame rates was also seen in the other ice level, called Frozen Paradise.
The fifth level Below the Thunder is an underground level in an enclosed environment and here the frame rates were considerably higher. The average went from 22fps at 1920x1200 in the first level, to around 30fps. There are a few more levels in the game, but we wont spoil them for you.
Realistically we do not believe the performance of Crysis Warhead is any better than the original, and we failed to see any substantial optimizations. Ideally gamers are going to require a current generation high-end graphics card to play this game in all its glory. More to the point, something like a GeForce GTX 280 is required, and at over $400, good luck building a $600 system that can play Crysis Warhead.
Despite of this, we loved Crysis Warhead. It's truly an amazing looking game and with the right hardware it can be appreciated to its fullest. In terms of gameplay Crysis Warhead is very enjoyable in my opinion, though as usual the single player campaign was a bit too short.
For those running Vista it is worth mentioning that Crysis Warhead will automatically run in the DirectX 10 rendering mode if possible. This is interesting, as DX10 offers very little in the way of visual enhancements, at least from what we saw and noticed. Running Crysis Warhead in DX9 mode will allow for a few more frames per second, in some cases up to 5 fps more on average with the GeForce GTX 280. This may not sound like much, but when you are averaging 22 fps the extra 5 fps is a life saver.
Based on our findings the only graphics cards that are going to be able to utilize the impressive enthusiast quality settings include the GeForce GTX 280/260 and Radeon HD 4870/4870 X2. The gamer quality settings also worked well with the Radeon HD 4850, GeForce 9800 GTX/GTX+, and GeForce 8800 GTS.
Everyone has their own idea of what kind of frame rates provide perfectly playable performance, and I know that my standards are quite high. The developers at Crytek say that gamers need only 30 - 35 fps on average, and for the most part this is fine for single player gaming.
However, with an average of 30fps gamers cannot afford to be dropping 3 - 4 fps during intense scenes. Personally I much prefer to have an average frame rate of around 50fps, and for multiplayer no less than 60fps. This kind of performance is going to be very difficult to achieve in Crysis Warhead without sacrificing a great deal of visual quality.
Overall Crysis Warhead looks to be another fun game based on the impressive CryEngine 2. At this stage it still looks like gamers are going to require next generation hardware to truly enjoy this game visuals, while those currently using cutting edge technology are getting a fair taste of what is to come.
Update: We had wrongfully stated that Far Cry 2 uses the CryEngine 2, when in reality it uses its own custom engine called "Dunia" developed from the ground up for this title. Terrible mistake for a Far Cry fan like myself, but that's the kind of thing that happens when you edit until it's 8am in the morning. Thanks everyone for your emails.